Elisabeth Elliot

Widely known for her books, speaking, and returning to Ecuador to do missionary work with the native tribe that killed her husband.

Elisabeth Elliot, a prominent Christian author and speaker, has died at the age of 88. She became widely known for her books and speaking engagements, and for returning to Ecuador with her daughter to do missionary work with the native Huaorani tribe that had killed her first husband years earlier. Before her death Elliott had suffered from dementia for about a decade.

Elliott has been described as a legend among evangelical Christians, mainly because of her two books that stemmed from her experience in Ecuador. The books became “the definitive inspirational mission stories for the second half of the 20th Century, Kathryn Long, a history professor at Wheaton College in Illinois told the New York Times.

Born in Belgium in 1926 to missionary parents,  Elliott and her family moved to Philadelphia when she was just a few months old. Later on, while studying at Wheaton College, she met her first husband Jim Elliot, with whom she worked as missionaries in Ecuador.

Jim Elliott was killed in 1956 as he was trying to make contact with the Huaorani tribe. Elisabeth was held captive by the same tribe for a year. Their daughter was 10 months old when her father was killed, and Elliott continued her missionary work in Ecuador for two more years.

In 1958 she went to live with the Huaorani with her daughter and sister of one of the murdered missionaries. She ministered to the tribe and remained in their primitive community, and according to her own word received a Huaorani name for woodpecker. During her stay she began to understand why the Huaorani had killed her husband. She wrote in Life magazine in 1961 that the natives were trying to preserve their own way of life, and their liberty.

In 1963, Elliot and her daughter returned to the United States, settling down in Franconia, New Hampshire. In 1969, she married professor Addison Leitch, and after he died in 1973, she married hospital chaplain Lars Gren in 1977.

Her most famous books are Through Gates of Splendor, published in 1957, and Shadow of the Almighty, which came out a year later. The first book recounted the mission during which her husband four other American missionaries were killed. The latter book is a more detailed account of her husband’s work.

From 1988 to 2001, she hosted a daily radio program, Gateway to Joy. The program was produced by the Good News Broadcasting Association of Lincoln, Nebraska. 

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